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Mortlake' of this trio, the first is described as profoundly versed in the old literature of England, and the second as enthusiastically devoted to the same pursuits, though with less leisure and fewer advantages; Elliot is an accomplished man of the world, recently returned from foreign travel. The Induction' of these volumes furnishes us with these preliminary sketches of character, and with the particulars of the conversation which took place during a pleasant sail from Westminster-bridge to the residence of Bourne. In the course of this dialogue, the commentators on Shakspeare are introduced, and, much to our satisfaction, are handled with just severity: the variorum edition of our great dramatist, is treated with merited contempt, and Steevens himself is stigmatised as a tasteless and conceited pedant. Respecting this coryphæus of annotators,' one of the interlocutors remarks:
You recollect that passage in Hamlet, as excellent in the sentiment as appropriate in the expression of it.
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
It seems to want no remark; but what do you think is the ridiculous, the absurd, the degrading comment of Steevens upon itI think you must remember it?
As for me (said Morton) there is nothing of which I am so laudably and satisfactorily ignorant as of the notes upon Shakespeare. I well recollect the very expressions of this paltry pretender (added Elliot): he is alluding to the trade of Shakespeare's father as a wool dealer or butcher, and to the conjecture that the poet followed the same business before he came up to London; and how do you imagine he draws an argument in favor of the supposition from the lines I just quoted? You might guess to eternity: all the ingenuity of the riddle-solvers, from Edipus down to Dame Partlett, would be of no avail. He first gives the passage, and then he adds, with solemn gravity," Dr. Farmer informs me that these words "are merely technical. A wool-man, butcher, and dealer in skewers” (and he takes care that the point shall not be lost for want of italics)
lately observed to him, that his nephew, an idle lad, could only assist "in making them-he could rough hew them, but I was obliged to "shape their ends. Whoever recollects the profession of Shakespeare's father, will admit that his son might be no stranger to such a term. I have seen packages of wool pinned up with skewers !" ›
It would be idle even to attempt an analysis of this literary melange; the first conversation, for instance, begins and ends with the poetical character of Fitz Jeffrey, and besides occasional citations from his compositions, a sort of running allusion to him is kept up by the speakers; but the body of the section is filled up by extracts from other writers and references to works and authors quite unconnected with the subject originally proposed. We make no objection to this, certainly, for we have
been much entertained by it; but for our present purpose, we find it exceedingly unmanageable. The second day is principally devoted to the writers of English blank-verse before Milton: the poetry is not very attractive, but the following piece of extravagance is, at least, amusing. We have modernized the old spelling.
ELLIOT. What black beast is that upon the title-page: is it Beelzebub or a dog?
BOURNE. Both; it is a representation of Beelzebub in the shape of a dog. I am not joking; read the title, though that does not fully explain the matter.
ELLIOT. A most fearful object! "A strange and terrible "Wonder wrought very late in the parish Church of Bungay, a town "of no great distance from the city of Norwich, namely the fourth "of this August in the year of our Lord 1577, in a great tempest of "violent rain, lightning and thunder, the like whereof hath been "seldom seen. With the appearance of an horrible shaped thing, "sensibly perceived of the people then and there assembled. Drawn "into a plain method according to the written copy, by Abraham "Fleming." This means nothing less than a supernatural appear
BOURNE. As I said, of the devil in the shape of a large black dog. In the body of the tract it is observed, "This black dog, or "devil in such likeness (God he knoweth all who worketh all) run"ning all along down the body of the Church with great swiftness and "incredible haste among the people in a visible form and shape, pass"ed between two persons, as they were kneeling upon their knees, "and occupied in prayer as it seemed, wrung the necks of them both "at one instant clean backward, insomuch that even at the moment "where they kneeled they strangely died."
'MORTON. How could Fleming become the dupe of such an absurd story?
ELLIOT. Wiser men have been quite as foolish; witness Sir Thomas Brown, one of the latest well educated believers in the existence and power of witches.
BOURNE. It would be easy to collect thousands of instances of the same weakness, down even to the days of Roger North. We are also told by Fleming, that another man received from this horrible monster" such a gripe on the back, that therewithal he was presently "drawn together and shrunk up, as it were a piece of leather scorch❝ed in a hot fire," and that the wires and wheels of the clock were melted and torn to pieces, thunder and lightning continuing all the time which, in fact, is the simple explanation of the whole of this "straunge and terrible wunder."
The third and three succeeding conversations refer principally to the early English satirists. The poetical specimens which are interspersed, are not always so striking as to tempt us to transcribe them; and those which might afford gratification to our readers,, would require more introduction and explanation than we can
convenientiy afford. As illustrations, and connected with the perpetual commentary of the dialogue, they are extremely interesting; but, abruptly transferred to our pages, they would lose much of their effect. We find the prose more convenient for citation, and shall trespass on Mr. Collier's stores for the following good • story' from Sir John Harrington.
• I remember how not long since a grave and godly lady, and grandmother to all my wives children, did in their hearings, and for their better instruction, tell them a story, which though I will not swear it was true, yet I did wish the auditory would believe it. Namely, how an Hermit being carried in an evening, by the conduct of an angel, through a great city, to contemplate the great wickedness daily and hourly wrought therein, met in the street a dung farmer with his cart full laden, no man envying his full measure. The poor Hermit, as other men did, stopped his nostrils, and betook him to the other side of the street, hastening from the sour carriage all he could; but the angel kept on his way, seeming no whit offended with the savour. At which while the Hermit marvelled, there came not long after by them, a woman gorgeously attired, well perfumed, well attended with coaches and torches, to convey her perhaps to some nobleman's chamber. The good Hermit, somewhat revived with the fair sight and sweet savour, began to stand at the gaze. On the other side the good angel now stopped his nose, and both hastened himself away, and beckoned his companion from the place. At which the Hermit more marvelling than before, he was told by the angel that this fine courtezan laden with sin, was a more stinking savour afore God, than that beastly cart laden with excrements.'
The seventh and eighth conversations are miscellaneous, the last containing references to various sources whence Shakspeare may be supposed to have derived assistance in the construction of his plots. The ninth and tenth also relate to the drama, and contain much illiberal abuse of the Puritans for their conscientious opposition to the stage. We do not think it worth while to argue this matter with Mr. Collier; but he must be perfectly aware that ample evidence is to be produced in justification of the harshest strictures on the licentiousness of theatrical exhibitions.
Mr. Collier seems to intimate an intention of pursuing his subject. We shall feel much pleasure in again meeting him: bis resources are abundant; and he is an intelligent and agreeable writer.
Art. III. 1. Dramatic Scenes and other Poems. By Barry Cornwall.
f.cap 8vo. pp. 166. London, 1819. 2. A Sicilian Story, with Diego de Montilla, and other Poems. By
Barry Cornwall. Second Edition. f.cap 8vo. pp. 176. London,
1820. 3. Marcian Colonna, an Italian Tale; with Three Dramatic Scenes
and other Poenis. By Barry Cornwall. 8vo. pp. 190. London,
TE have designated this gentleman as the poetical rival of
Mr. Keats, and, though we do not like the cant phrase, we shall neither displease him, we trust, nor wrong him, in referring him to the same school. There are some persons, we understand, who, indignant at the comparison, will have it that the Keats is unspeakably the loftier poet, the more classical genius of the two. We have no wish to bet very high upon either ; but judging of their pretensions simply from the productions which they have lavished upon us, we must remark that, on the one hand, the name of Barry Cornwall has not yet been affixed to any thing half so absurd as Endymion, and that, on the other hand, the Author of Endymion has never yet produced any thing comparable in genuine delicacy, sweetness, and pathos to the following stanzas, which attracted our attention before we ascertained their author.
« Gone from her cheek is the summer bloom,
every charm has now left the dead.
Man in his uttermost wretchedness. p. 160. We know that there have been fortunate moments in which small poets bave struck off some exquisite trifles, and we should not, therefore, have felt ourselves authorized on the strength of these verses, to rate superlatively high the capabilities of the Author ; but there are other good things in that same volume: the Dramatic Scenes are very spirited imitations of the style of
our elder Dramatic writers, and contain some very touching pagsages; the minor poems, too, are elegant and pleasing; and altogether the volume, though not quite satisfactory as a performance, appeared to us to contain the promise of some future productions of no mean order. The rapidity with which the three publications at the head of this article, followed one upon another, did not, however, tend to confirm this favourable augury. A writer who either cannot afford to keep back the contents of his portfolio, or, not having the excuse of poverty, lacks the discretion that should restrain the eagerness to publish, is not likely to excel bis first performance; he has, probably, already done his best. This appears to be the case with the present Author: the contents of bis subsequent volumes have disappointed us; and, after reading Marcian Colonna, we are compelled to think much less respectfully of both his taste and his talents than we did when we had read only the earlier specimens. In his first volume, he was the successful imitator of Massinger and Fletcher ; in the second, he came down not a little in taking for his model Don Juan, and failing in the attempt; in the third, be is either the imitator or the twin counterpart of John Keats bimself. We shall take a specimen from each of the three volumes. The first is from the dramatic sketch entitled - The • broken heart.' The story is from Boccacio.
Jeronymo was sent from Italy to Paris in order to complete his studies. He was detained there two years his mother being fearful lest he should marry a poor and beautiful girl, (Sylvestra,) with whom he had been brought up from infancy. During his absence his mother contrived to have Sylvestra married. He returned, and, after wandering about her dwelling, succeeded in getting into her chamber, conversed with her, (her husband being asleep,) and, at last, died on the bed before her.'
• Jeron. So : all is hush'd at last. Hist! There she lies,
Who should have been my own: Sylvestra !-No;